Let’s read Galatians 5:1-3, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law” (NKJV).

Paul wrote this letter to the churches in Galatia with a heavy heart, for after he had preached the gospel there (resulting in many believing in Christ as their Savior), Jewish teachers came along and taught the new converts that they must be CIRCUMCISED and KEEP THE LAW OF MOSES in order to be saved. In other words, they told them it wasn’t enough to simply believe the gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation, but that one must ADD to their faith the rite of circumcision and obedience to the Ten Commandments.

Paul strongly refutes this error by exhorting them to “stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free.” To add circumcision and the keeping of the law to their faith would result in being “entangled again with a yoke of bondage,” for the law never saved anyone or gave them freedom; rather it enslaves those who, in vain, try to keep it. Not only that, but if one adds anything to what Christ accomplished on the cross, “Christ will profit you nothing,” which simply means that “Christ can’t save you.” The bottom line is the sinner must trust Christ ALONE for salvation, period!

This same thing happened years earlier after the gospel was preached and received by many in the city of Antioch. In Acts 15:1 we read, “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’” As we read on in that chapter we see that Paul and Barnabas “had no small dispute with them” (verse 2) over this false teaching and then a conference was held in Jerusalem to settle this matter once and for all. Many took part in this discussion but it is the Apostle Peter’s words that best sum up the conclusion that they reached. I will quote all his words from verses 7-11, “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should HEAR THE WORD OF THE GOSPEL AND BELIEVE. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, PURIFYING THEIR HEARTS BY FAITH. Now therefore, why do you test God by PUTTING A JOY ON THE NECK OF THE DISCIPLES which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” How beautifully simple are Peter’s words! He states clearly and emphatically that ALL ARE SAVED by simply BELIEVING THE GOSPEL. And that if one tried to ADD TO THE GOSPEL you are guilty of denying the truth of the gospel and bringing souls into bondage.

In your question you referred to baptism. As we have seen the literal rite of circumcision is what is described in our verse. Yet the principle involved in Paul’s words includes ANYTHING that people would add to faith, including baptism. The fact is there are many false teachers today who insist that one must be baptized to be saved and their error is just as serious as that of the Jewish false teachers in Paul’s day. If one is “trusting in Christ AND BAPTISM for salvation,” the same result occurs, for “Christ will profit you nothing.” Those who do teach this usually use Mark 16:16 to support their view. It says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” But they sometimes fail to quote the rest of the verse which states, “But he who does not believe will be condemned.” It is the LACK OF FAITH that damns the soul, not the lack of baptism, and thus it is FAITH ALONE THAT SAVES. Ephesians 2:8 declares, “For by grace you have been SAVED THROUGH FAITH, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” I would also encourage everyone to read 1st Corinthians 1:17-18. (302.4) (DO)